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  • Roger S. Conrad

Look Before You Step

By Elliott H. Gue on Apr. 14, 2016

Last year, we called for WTI prices to tumble to between $20 and $25 per barrel in the first half of 2016, citing the rapid growth in US oil inventories and limited storage capacity.

Unfortunately, the probability that oil prices will retrench to our target range has diminished significantly as the withdrawal season approaches. With the oil market entering a period of seasonal strength, hedge funds appear reluctant to push their luck on the short side until after the April 17 OPEC meeting.

Although investors shouldn’t expect this meeting to produce any earth-shattering agreements, you can count on oil ministers to try to jawbone oil prices higher or lower after the event, putting a floor of about $30 per barrel under WTI.

Any upside also appears to be capped, as a sustained rally into the low $40s per barrel would prompt shale producers to hedge their 2017 output, stemming the decline in US onshore production—the primary driver of a recovery in oil prices.

Moreover, even as global oil supply and demand rebalance in the second half of 2016, draining the excess inventories accumulated since mid-2014 will take at least a year, short-circuiting the V-shaped recovery in oil prices that some pundits continue to predict.

Bottom Line: We expect oil prices to trade between $30 and $43 per barrel for the balance of 2016, followed by a recovery to our lower-for-longer trading range of $40 to $60 per barrel in early 2017.

Despite this tight range, volatility and economic uncertainty will create excellent trading opportunities in energy stocks and master limited partnerships over the next three to six months. We’ll look to go long during the inevitable selloff in anticipation of a snap-back rally in late 2016, when incoming data points start to demonstrate that the global supply-demand balance has improved.

But in many cases, the recent oversold bounce in oil prices and energy stocks appears to be overdone, giving investors an ideal opportunity to exit any of the riskier, sell-rated names that they may still hold in their portfolios.

With many readers afraid of missing the boat on energy stocks, we explain why we remain bearish on refining stocks–a pocket or relative safety over the past year–and oil-field services and capital equipment names.

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    • Elliott H. Gue

      Founder and Chief Analyst: Capitalist Times and Energy & Income Advisor

    • Roger S. Conrad

      Founder and Chief Analyst: Capitalist Times and Energy & Income Advisor